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Time for NHRA to adopt fuel injection is now

February 15, 2013

ImageAside from the grille and the name, does this look like a Dodge Intrepid? (Anne Proffit photo)

I love beating an old horse to death.

That’s why today I’m on a rant about NHRA Mello Yello Pro Stock drag racing. Who cares, you say? All you want to see is the nitro classes spitting fire, spinning their Goodyear tires and going close to 330 mph in 1000 feet, right?

Truth be told, all of those Funny Car and Top Fuel entries are using, pretty much the same mechanical stuff under their plastic bodies and behind their drivers, respectively. The most technologically advanced and diverse class in NHRA professional racing is Pro Stock. Hands down.

Here you have manufacturers vying for season-long honors with 2012’s champion Dodge Intrepid battling Chevrolet’s Camaro and, to a much lesser extent Ford’s Mustang. The bodies kind of tell you what kind of car it is, while the engine secrets are more protected than anything happening at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Wander through the Pro Stock paddock and you’ll never see a naked engine. Nobody wants to shre their secrets – and nobody will.

So what”s the problem? NHRA is stuck in the 1980s with regard to its induction systems. Pro Stock is still using carburetors where Top Fuel, Funny Car and many in the Pro Stock Motorcycle contingent are utilizing electronic or mechanical fuel injection.

Heck, even NASCAR adopted EFI for its primary Sprint Cup Series in 2012 – and that took about three years to implement, from the time it was announced until the first cars went on the track at Daytona for the 2012 Daytona 500. Were there some hiccups? Sure, but they were mostly overcome before the season even began. And now it’s not even a talking issue. Everyone runs EFI; nobody has anything further to say about it.

What’s holding NHRA back from changing over to EFI? NHRA’s answer to that question is the customary one: cost. They say it will be prohibitively expensive for the smaller teams to move to EFI. Well, shoot! Racing is expensive… if folks can’t afford to be competitive, there are other ways to spend the money than to compete in Pro Stock. There’s plenty of Lucas Oil sportsman classes out there for the taking.

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The nose of Larry Morgan’s Ford Mustang (Anne Proffit photo)

it takes testing a lot of carburetors to find a pair that’ll work on a Pro Stock car. And with their high profiles, the carburetors require a bulbous nose atop the Pro Stock hood that pretty much negates any manufacturer identity. Bringing in fuel injection might also allow a very interested Japanese manufacturer to get involved in Pro Stock. Are you listening, NHRA? Hey, as I type this there might be more people in the stands to watch sportsman qualifying than Pro Stock, thanks to the identifying factors of the cars.

The amount of money invested in EFI might be scary except for the fact that each competitor doesn’t have to buy 3-4-5 or even 10 sets of of fuel injection systems to find one that works. All they need is expertise behind the screen of a computer.

And who in this business doesn’t have that expertise? I think nearly everyone that’s running a Pro Stock car today has to rely on computer skills. If anyone’s doing it without those skills, please have them come to the media center and introduce themselves.

The problem has got to be in Glendora. Does NHRA have the technical crew to supervise EFI? Can’t they do what NASCAR’s done and have a spec ECU that blocks out traction control, the real bugaboo that’s being claimed as a deterrent to EFI as a control for induction? It must be the expense of manpower to supervise development of electronic fuel injection and to police it is one of the problems. NHRA doesn’t want to spend that money

Therein lies the real issue. NHRA doesn’t want to spend money to move forward in this world. It continues to be reactive, rather than proactive and that stance loses constituency in the stands and in the pits. If NHRA wants to be relevant to more people that love cars and racing, they’re going to have to change with the times. That means more than having a Twitter or Facebook account, more than putting the house publication, National Dragster online.

No, that means moving the playing field towards relevancy. There’s no better place to start that march than in Pro Stock, the most technologically savvy category in all of drag racing.

By Anne Proffit

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7 Comments
  1. Tom Haman permalink

    God bless you Anne!!!!!!!!! I have loved drag racing since ’63 but in the past decade it has become cookie-cutter cars. Top Fuel will rule, but it lacks ANY innovation; both Ed Pink and “Big Daddy” Don Garlits are quoted as so. I’m ALL for safety but this boredom borders on a big yawn and I LUV the smell (and sound) of NITRO in the morning. Funny Car? PULEASE!!!!! If they weren’t painted properly, you couldn’t tell WHAT brand they were; just like NASCAR. Lift the body and WHOOSH, they’re all the same. Pro Stock has become, once again, brand segregated, this time Chevy. When Glidden, Johnson, Sheppard and Alderman were racing (forget the nitrous BS), we had something to watch. AJ is great, but how long can he last? Larry Morgan had to abandon his Mustang and has 2 wins already with a Chebby! Diversity and innovation is the key in drag racing and Pro Mod is looking like the last gasp. NHRA is already LOSING TV audiences to shows like “Street Outlaws” because they at least look like REAL drag cars. Fox Sport One is in for a VERY RUDE AWAKENING. I am so proud that this sport has achieved it’s level but I fear it is on the way DOWN.

    • Just today NHRA announced they’ll introduce mandatory throttle body EFI, a 10,500 rpm limit and no more bulbous noses… my story about that is on motorsport.com

      • Tom Haman permalink

        The lack of the hood scoop really makes no sense as nitrous equipped EFI cars still need a high density air flow. 10,500 rpm limit???? We’ll see; I’m betting it doesn’t last very long. It also stated they would have to BACK INTO their pits and no more covering the engines. Unless you’re one of the FEW Fords that are alleged to have Chrysler Hemis with FORD stamped on the valve covers, all the GM’s have the same combo so there really is no real need for such secrecy………unless Anderson is hiding something.

  2. These cars are not nitrous equipped, obviously… and yes, the KB guys are bitching about the 10,500 limit and the uncovering of the engines, which is something that started yesterday shortly after the announcement was made to competitors. KB’s NASCAR-like operation must have something they don’t want anyone to see… teams started turning cars around, facing out and the fans stopped walking past Pro Stock but, instead, stopped to look at the cars for a longer period of time. That’s progress, I think.

    • Tom Haman permalink

      I understand about the nitrous thing, but EFI throttle bodies are just glorified Dominators without float bowls hanging on the ends. The gas will still be port injected as the throttle bottle is more an air flow control than anything else. I still maintain that NHRA needs to re-assess Pro Stock and it’s GM dominance (Anyone with a 9/16 and 1/2 inch wrench can do Chevys). This is far worse than Chrysler’s in the early 70’s and Ford’s Cleavland dominance(But damn!!…Weren’t those 1970 Mustangs ad 4 door Mavericks something? Beats the jellybean Pintos). We need the Dodge Challenger back in Pro Stock, NOT 4 door Darts; ANYTHING Ford(Ford sells more Mustangs than Chevy does Camaros, fact) and then maybe we will eliminate NHRA Pro Stock as “poor relation” status. These cars are the only high tech left. No big hood scoops? Sounds like P/S truck class and we all know what happened there(YAWN!). Look at IHRA Pro Stock for sounder ideas. Pro Mod is still the only fun thing to watch and you rarely see it televised. THAT would get the TV audience back(You do know “Street Outlaws” has a bigger TV audience.)

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